Artist's illustration using binary numbers. Photo Credit: DARPA

An advanced sensor developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will be inducted into the U.S. Space Foundation Hall of Fame on April 12 in recognition of its potential uses in medicine, firefighting and industry, as well as astronomy.

The Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP) technology has been licensed for various commercial applications, including non- invasive detection of breast and skin cancers. Physicians use it during brain surgery to visualize a tumor's perimeter. The QWIP camera's ability to see through dust and smoke has proven useful to firefighters and helicopter camera crews by allowing them to see forest fire hot spots from the air through heavy smoke. The technology also has many other potential uses from search and rescue, spotting faulty welds and blockages, to volcano observation.

"It is a great pleasure to see something we developed being used for public benefit," said Sarath Gunapala, co-inventor and principal engineer of the sensor developed at JPL, "especially in medical applications, such as the early detection of cancer."

The ability of the camera to see in the infrared has been useful for NASA. Astronomers at Palomar Observatory have also taken advantage of the ability to see in the infrared through dust clouds and image deep into dusty star-forming regions where visible sensors cannot penetrate.

The U.S. Space Foundation's Space Technology Hall of Fame honors individuals, organizations and companies who have taken technologies originally designed for the space program and later adapted them for commercial application on Earth. The QWIP technology is to be inducted during the Foundation's National Space Symposium, on April 9 -12 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Three other JPL technologies have made the Hall of Fame: the Active Pixel Sensor in 1999 and, in 1994, Digital Image Processing and an Excimer Laser Angioplasty System.

More information on QWIP is available at: JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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